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Soundings: A Contemporary Score
August 10–November 3, 2013

MoMA's first major exhibition of sound art presents work by 16 of the most innovative contemporary artists working with sound. While these artists approach sound from a variety of disciplinary angles—the visual arts, architecture, performance, computer programming, and music—they share an interest in working with, rather than against or independent of, material realities and environments. These artistic responses range from architectural interventions, to visualizations of otherwise inaudible sound, to an exploration of how sound ricochets within a gallery, to a range of field recordings—including echolocating bats, abandoned buildings in Chernobyl, 59 bells in New York City, and a sugar factory in Taiwan.

The diversity of these works reflects a complex and nuanced field. Yet the exhibition posits something specific: that how we listen determines what we hear. Indeed, the works provoke and evoke—both in the maker and the museumgoer—modes of active listening, and a heightened relationship between interior and exterior space. At a time when personal listening devices and tailored playlists have become ubiquitous, shared aural spaces are increasingly rare. Many of the artists in the exhibition aim for such realities, and the sound they create is decidedly social, immersing visitors and connecting them in space. In many of the works, links are drawn between disparate topographies and subjects, giving rise to new understanding and experiences.

The artists in the exhibition are Luke Fowler (Scottish, b. 1978), Toshiya Tsunoda (Japanese, b. 1964), Marco Fusinato (Australian, b. 1964), Richard Garet (Uruguayan, b. 1972), Florian Hecker (German, b. 1975), Christine Sun Kim (American, b. 1980), Jacob Kirkegaard (Danish, b. 1975), Haroon Mirza (British, b. 1977), Carsten Nicolai (German, b. 1965), Camille Norment (American, b. 1970), Tristan Perich (American, b. 1982), Susan Philipsz (Scottish, b. 1965), Sergei Tcherepnin (American, b. 1981), Hong-Kai Wang (Taiwanese, b. 1971), Jana Winderen (Norwegian, b. 1965), and Stephen Vitiello (American, b. 1964).


Luke Fowler & Toshiya Tsunoda

Luke Fowler and Toshiya Tsunoda. Ridges on the Horizontal Plane. 2011. Installation view at Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. Courtesy the artists and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. Photo: Lothar Schnepf

Fragments of landscapes—projections of rippling water, reflections on glass—are magnified for our consideration in Ridges on the Horizontal Plane. Fowler and Tsunoda share a curiosity about the mechanics of perception and the ways in which worldly phenomena are typically received and understood. In their collaborations, they distill the interrelated and frequently invisible elements that allow even the simplest action to occur. Here, for instance, winds produced by fans make a fabric screen billow. This wind produces distortion in the image, and occasionally the gusts are forceful enough to cause the screen to brush up against the strings of a piano. The strings are pulled taut across the screen, and upon contact they emit an audible drone. Quite literally, the artists have made sound and image collide, and in doing so they have opened up ways of listening and looking that highlight the interdependence and interconnection of the occurrences of everyday life.


Luke Fowler and Toshiya Tsunoda. Ridges on the Horizontal Plane. 2011. Recorded audio composition, 15:26 min. Courtesy the Gisela Capitain Gallery, Cologne.


Toshiya Tsunoda. The Temple Recording 01. 2010. Field recording at Minamishitaura, Miura city Kanagawa Pref, Japan, 16:52 min. Courtesy the artist